Beyond Sex, Where's the Draw of Virtual Worlds Like Second Life?

Virtual worlds have received a lot of hype recently. Although I think they are kind of neat, I don't think they're ready for prime time today, if ever.

Techcrunch has recently posted an article about viritual worlds and how they might become part of the web 3.0 fabric.  I disagree.  I think that most people don't have the time or patience to spend in these worlds and that the real world is quite enough.  I have a Second Life account and each time I log on I get frustrated.  The last time, just before I posted this article, the screen froze as I tried to figure out how to retrieve a jetpack from a crashed helicopter.

The experience is very neat and almost liberating.  You can roam free through the land finding unusual terrain, objects, and people.  But it's difficult to figure things out and has a steep learning curve.  I've also seen some pretty cool artwork and creative sites.  But I still don't think that's enough to bring in the masses.  Below the surface is a bubbling sexuality which makes me think Second Life is like the AOL chat rooms of the 90s, a place for virtual liaisons.  That's not bad, and it might be enough to power the company.  Sex has always been a leading indicator of where the masses are going but I don't think so in this case.  Here are a couple of reasons why I don't think virtual worlds are going to take off any time soon: 

  • It's pretty complicated to learn how to navigate and interact in these virtual worlds.  Second Life has a tutorial to get you started.  Anything that requires a tutorial is a non-starter in my book. 
  • It requires too much time to build your character and maintain relationships in these virtual worlds.
  • Once the novelty wears off, what's really so fun about running around with an avatar, meeting other avatars?
  • People spend so much time in front of a computer for work, are they really going to do this in their leisure time?
  • You can't play in a virtual world at work, it's too obvious.
  • Virtual sex just doesn't do it for me.

 Look at the worlds that have become popular.  Club Penguin, which was recently sold to Disney for $350 million is for kids, who have plenty of time to hang-out and make friends.  Big MMORG attract gamers, who are usually teen-agers or college students with plenty of time. 

There will always be a core of consumers who have tens of hours a week to spend in these worlds, but they are not the majority and it's hard to imagine virtual worlds going mainstream.

Sol Nasisi
Sol Nasisi: Sol Nasisi is the co-founder and a past president of BestCashCow, an online resource for comprehensive bank rate information. In this capacity, he closely followed rate trends for all savings-related and loan products and the impact of rate fluctuations on the economy. He specifically focused on how rates impact consumers' ability to borrow and save. He also has authored a wee

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Comments

  • ali

    August 06, 2007

    I agree completely. I have spent time on Second Life and I think you being too generous. It is first and foremost a site for sex. And, it isn't even satisfying sex.

  • John

    August 07, 2007

    Isn't sex a big enough draw?

  • blu dog

    January 08, 2008

    I have recently experianced a new emotion Viritual Jealousy. Iam I going insane or what

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